Governor Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox today announced the approval of the Yellowstone River Recreation Project Priority Plan. The Plan allocates $2.3 million for development projects to restore recreation services and resources lost because of the 2011 ExxonMobil Pipeline spill.
“The Yellowstone River is one of the last, great, free-flowing rivers in the United States and plays a major role in Montana’s $7 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Governor Bullock. “These projects will improve public access to the river, and improve city parks and public lands that are part of Montanans’ way of life.”
Attorney General Tim Fox said, “The Montana Department of Justice’s Natural Resource Damage Program worked closely with citizens affected by the oil spill, convened a local committee to identify recreational priorities, and developed this proposed recreation project priority plan. Thanks to good collaboration, these funds will be used to restore and improve the environmental and recreational resources of this great river for all to enjoy.”
In September 2016, the United States and the State of Montana announced a settlement with ExxonMobil Pipeline Company and the availability of a restoration plan. The final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company July 1, 2011 Yellowstone River Oil Spill (restoration plan) was prepared by the State of Montana and the U.S. Department of the Interior, collectively acting as Trustees for the restoration of natural resources and public use services that were exposed and/or injured by the Yellowstone River oil spill (February 2017).
The restoration plan specifically allocated just over $12 million in natural resource damages, plus interest, to restore, rehabilitate, replace, or acquire the equivalent of injured natural resources from the 2011 Yellowstone River Oil Spill, $2.3 million of which were allocated to restoration of recreation service losses on the river due to the spill.
In winter 2017, the Montana Department of Justice’s Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) convened a Yellowstone River Recreation Project Advisory Committee (Committee) to prepare a recreation project priority plan for approval by the Governor. The priority plan would identify how approximately $2.3 million in natural resource damage settlement funds, earmarked for the recreational human use injury category, will be spent on recreation projects on or along the Yellowstone River related to the spill. The committee developed an application process for citizens to submit projects, and then went through an extensive review of the 28 project ideas submitted.
The recreation project priority plan is available online https://dojmt.gov/lands/ or by contacting the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program at email@example.com or (406) 444-0205.